Latest wastewater analysis gives insight into drug consumption in Australia

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has today released the latest findings from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, revealing the level of harm experienced by the community.

Acting ACIC CEO Matt Rippon said that much of the harm Australians suffer at the hands of organised crime is due to illicit drugs. Wastewater analysis provides crucial information and intelligence on drug markets and serious and organised criminal activity to support government in creating a safer Australia.

More than 14 tonnes of methylamphetamine, cocaine, 3,4-methylenedioxymethylamphetamine (MDMA) and heroin was consumed in Year 6 of the Program to August 2022, with an estimated street value of $10 billion. While this represents a 10% reduction in total consumption from Year 5 (2020–21), there were increases in national methylamphetamine and heroin consumption from Year 5 to Year 6 of the Program.

“This is a concerning amount, both in terms of economic cost – the actual expenditure on drugs – and the cost to the community – through violence, road trauma, property crime, illness, injury and deaths associated with illicit drug use,” Mr Rippon said.

Report 18 of the ACIC’s wastewater program covered sampling in August and October 2022. In August, 58 wastewater sites were monitored nationally, covering approximately 57% of the Australian population.

Between April and August 2022, national consumption of methylamphetamine, cocaine, alcohol and nicotine decreased in both capital city and regional sites, while consumption of all other drugs monitored by the Program increased.

“The findings show methylamphetamine continues to be the most consumed illicit stimulant by some margin. We also saw record low national consumption of cocaine,” Mr Rippon said.

The ACIC judges that the low level of cocaine consumption is primarily due to law enforcement seizures and detections which limited supply, as there is no tangible evidence of a reduction in demand.

“Illicit drugs and licit drugs with abuse potential are inherently harmful. Reliable drug consumption data are a key indicator of the level of harm experienced by the community. This is because the level of community harm is directly related to the quantity of substances consumed,” Mr Rippon said.

Read the full report on the ACIC website.

Media enquiries: 02 6268 7343 or 0409 603 637

Note to editors 

In accordance with current wastewater analysis conventions, the terms of the contract, and to protect the integrity of the ACIC’s wastewater program, the exact sampling locations cannot be publicly released by the ACIC. To maintain the confidentiality of the participating site, each site was allocated a unique code to de-identify their results, however trends in particular states and territories can be identified.

Media are encouraged to include help-seeking information in stories about illicit drugs to minimise any negative impact on people in the community. The following services provide people with access to support and information.